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Martin's Minor Role getTING a maJOR LIFT

MARTIN McDONNELL is the new manager of the Dublin ladies minor footballers.

He well remembers his first match - the All-Ireland SFC football final of 1974.

It was the day Heffo's Heroes were born as Dublin beat Galway to collect Sam for the first time since 1963.

"I jumped on the band-wagon, and I'm still on it 40 years later," smiles Martin.

He was up on the Hill, trying to get a view among the packed throng.

Paddy Cullen made that famous penalty save from Liam Sammon.

"I always remember the referee. He was a little fella from Tyrone.


"As he was blowing the final whistle, he was running towards the tunnel. He wanted to get out of there before he was run over."

Those times will never leave Martin. "They were brilliant days. And the Dubs won again in '76 and '77.

"I still maintain that the '77 semi-final win over Kerry was better than the All-Ireland victory in 2011.

"I know people talk about 2011 being the best game and so on, but you have to remember that the Kerry team of '77 had all those superstars.

"Dublin and Kerry went at it hammer and tongs that day. Thankfully, Dublin football never went backwards like things were pre-'74. They have managed to maintained their high profile."

Martin's favourite footballer was Jimmy Keaveney.

"Yes, 'The Pope' himself. He was my idol."

And like the great man, Martin doesn't deal in fuss.

"We are not setting any long-term goals.

"The whole idea is to get each girl playing to her maximum. We face a challenge.

"We know where we are. Hopefully, if we perform to the best of our ability, it will be enough to take us a long way down the road.

"Our idea is to try and get the players to give the best of themselves in each game they play."

Martin and his crew have been busy at the trials.

One hundred and forty names were sent in by the clubs. All quality footballers. The plan is to get that down to a training panel of 45 till mid-January. And then cut that for the 2015 squad.

"It's tough. And the one sure thing is that we are not going to get it 100 per cent right. You have to accept that.

"We are dealing with 140 players. We are going to leave out a girl who, perhaps, could have done a bit better on the day.

"We'll end up with what we end up with. But after all the sessions, I have said to the girls that not making the cut isn't the end of the road.

"In the last couple of years, girls that didn't make it initially have been called back later on in the season.

"It's difficult for the girls. The standard is very high.

"Ideally, what we are looking for when we have our final squad is to have two players for each position. That's what we have to be aiming for.

"Getting DCU for our base is a big help. The facilities there are first-class.

"From a management point of view, we want to make sure that all the needs of the players are met, on and off the pitch.

"We won't fall short in terms of effort. We'll be giving it a good go," concludes Martin.